In North Carolina, either spouse can request spousal support (alimony) as part of the settlement for their divorce. The parties may ask for alimony prior to the judgment for equitable distribution. If awarded, the issues of the amount of support awarded and whether a spouse is designated as a supporting spouse or dependent spouse may be reviewed by the court after the conclusion of the equitable distribution claim.
North Carolina Spousal Support/Alimony Laws at a Glance
North Carolina's spousal support statutes contain very detailed information that is best left to an attorney to fully capture the law's nuances and subtleties. However, a nonlawyer can supplement their understanding with helpful explanations - in plain English. See the chart below for a recap of the laws that govern spousal support/alimony in North Carolina.
- North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-16.1A
- North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-16.2A
- North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-16.8
- North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-16.7
Eligibility for Support
To be eligible for alimony, the dependent spouse must be considered:
- "Substantially dependent"- the spouse has a dependence on the other spouse such that they cannot maintain the standard of living that they are used to during the time before separation; and
- "Substantially in need of support"- the dependent spouse is unable to maintain the lifestyle prior to separation without the other spouse's financial contribution.
Sexually Illicit Behavior: Refers to acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse.
- If the court finds that the dependent spouse participated in illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation, then the court won't award alimony.
- If the court finds that both the dependent spouse and the supporting spouse each participated in an act of illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation, then the award or denial of alimony is based on the court's discretion in consideration of all circumstances.
Factors that determine amount and duration of support
In addition to the party's total income, the court considers a party's earning capacity, which is the amount a person can earn given their best efforts to earn income that correlates with their skills and education.
The duration of support can be a specified or an indefinite term. The court will determine the duration based on several factors.
- Marital misconduct;
- Relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;
- The spouses' ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions;
- The amounts and sources of earned and unearned income of the spouses;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
- The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by acting as a custodian of a minor child;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The relative assets/liabilities of the spouses;
- The property brought to the marriage;
- The relative needs of the spouses;
- The tax ramifications of the award; and
- Any other factor related to economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be proper.
How Alimony is Paid:
- Lump sum payment
- Periodic payments
- Income withholding
- Transfer of title or possession of personal property or as a security interest in or possession of real property.
Alimony that's not paid as a lump sum can be modified by showing a "substantial change in circumstances."
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
North Carolina Alimony Laws: Related Resources
Discuss Spousal Support/Alimony Issues with An Attorney
If you're facing divorce in North Carolina, you should be aware of how spousal support/alimony issues may affect your case. Discuss your concerns with an experienced divorce attorney located near you today.